Whales play around New Zealand coast   14 Jul 2011

Whale watching is a year-round pastime in New Zealand but come winter, the popular activity takes on a more serious role, and this year a busy migration period is providing valuable data as well as entertainment.

New Zealand is known as the marine mammal capital of the world and with 15,134 kilometres of coastline there are numerous opportunities to spot mammals especially during their winter migration.

Two main species track through New Zealand at this time of the year - humpback and southern right whales.

Cook Strait survey
An official Department of Conservation (DOC) survey in Cook Strait, between the North and South islands, has shown a record number of humpback whales passing through the area this year.

Survey leader Nadine Bott said 62 humpbacks had been spotted by the team of ex-whalers, just three weeks into the survey compared to 47 for the entire survey period last year.

The 2011 survey, which began on 11 June, finished on Saturday (9.07.2011) July.

The annual poll assesses recovery in humpback whale numbers since commercial whaling ended in New Zealand in 1963. In 2005, only 18 humpbacks were recorded, and Bott says this year’s numbers are very encouraging.

Akaroa Heads
Tourism operators like Black Cat Cruises at Aakaroa, in Canterbury, have also reported increased sightings of humpbacks, which pass the company’s Banks Peninsula doorstep on their way north from the Southern Ocean.

The company says humpbacks were seen off the Akaroa heads three times in just one week delighting tourists including a group of 16 North American travel agents.

Banks Peninsula is on the direct route for Southern Ocean humpbacks as they migrate thousands of kilometres between low latitude winter breeding and calving grounds in Antarctica and sub-tropical waters of western and eastern Australia and Fiji.

Relaxed and playful
The humpback whales are well known for their spectacular breaching and beautiful complex songs and many spotted in the Akaroa Harbour have been relaxed and playful, apparently happy to be amongst the local natives - including Hector’s dolphins, the smallest and rarest dolphins in the world.

Nadine Bott said humpbacks seen in Cook Strait also appeared relaxed and playful. The whales had come in closer to shore than normal and were happy to rest and linger - more so than other years.

Clear weather and calm sea conditions had made it easier to spot whales this season and photos provided would be particularly valuable for research.

Southern right whales
The Department of Conservation has put out its annual call for members of the public to photograph and report any sightings of southern right whales, which are normally prevalent at this time of the year, and can be easily spotted because they come close to shore.

Photographs are a less invasive, less expensive way to provide information which helps with identifying whales and monitoring their patterns of movement.

Auckland and Otago universities are investigating how southern right whales move around New Zealand.

DOC says the most useful part of the southern right whale to photograph are the callosities - yellowish, raised rough patches of tissue on the head. Each whale has a unique pattern of callosities that only change very slightly over time.

Numbers down
Laura Boren, DOC’s national mammal co-ordinator says there have been fewer sightings of southern right whales in New Zealand waters this year, which is strange after high numbers during the 2010 migration season.

The reasons could be to do with unseasonal weather and the whales staying off-shore, but further answers could come to light after a New Zealand research team completes a study in the Auckland Islands over winter, says Boren.

The southern right whale migration season runs from May through to October each year. So far there have been sightings off Ruapuke Island and Dog Islands in Southland, and in Whareongaonga, south of Young Nick's Head on the western tip of the North Island East Coast region.

(100% Pure New Zealand)

Add a comment

Bookmark and Share

News

Nurses urge action on climate change

28 Nov 2014 News
New Zealand Nurses Organisation Nurses urge action on climate change Nurses commenting on a Special Article published today in the... more

Awards put spotlight on location innovation

28 Nov 2014 News
The limitless potential of location information, and the innovative people working at its forefront, took centre stage last night at... more

Business

Lambskin prices slump

28 Nov 2014 Business News
By Tina Morrison Nov. 28 (BusinessDesk) - Global lambskin prices have collapsed from the first quarter's record highs, as a Chinese... more

China's tannery crackdown, Russian sanctions dent lambskin

28 Nov 2010 Business News
By Tina Morrison Nov. 28 (BusinessDesk) - Global lambskin prices have collapsed from the first quarter's record highs, as a Chinese... more

Living

Chase & Status to Join Netsky at Lake Hawea Hotel

28 Nov 2014 Entertainment
Rhythm Group Rhythm Group Entertainment is excited to announce that Chase an... more

Charles Bradley And His Extraordinaires Announce NZ Sideshow

28 Nov 2014 Lifestyle
Bluesfest Bluesfest Touring are thrilled to confirm yet another series of fantastic New Zealand sideshows, adding to the array of... more

Property

Encouraging growth in latest building consent data

28 Nov 2014 Property
Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith today welcomed the latest release of figures from Statistics New Zealand which shows the... more

NZ house building consents bounce back in October

28 Nov 2014 Property
By Paul McBeth Nov. 28 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand house building consents rose at their fastest monthly pace in more than two... more

Migration

Minister to attend the OECD Forum on migration

28 Nov 2014 Migration
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse will travel to Paris tomorrow to represent the New Zealand Government at the Organisation for... more

High Commissioner to Fiji reinstated

28 Nov 2014 Migration
Foreign Minister Murray McCully has announced the reinstatement of New Zealand’s High Commissioner to Fiji. “New ... more

Travel

More Customs officers in time for Christmas

28 Nov 2014 Travel & Tourism
Customs Minister Nicky Wagner congratulates the twenty seven new Customs officers who are graduating in Auckland today, in time to ... more

Doubling of flights between NZ and China

26 Nov 2014 Travel & Tourism
New Zealand Government Flights between New Zealand and China are set to double under amended air services arrangements, says ... more

Sport

ARL launches NCEA match official initiative

28 Nov 2014 Rugby League
Auckland Rugby League The Auckland Rugby League has today announced a new initiative which will see students able to gain NCEA... more

Black Sox named for Oceania qualifier

27 Nov 2014 Sport
Hard work has been rewarded in the naming of the Golden Homes Black Sox softball team for next month’s ISF Oceania Qualifying ... more

Columns

Gordon Campbell on Andrew Little, Mockingjay & drunk texting

28 Nov 2014 Opinion
Column - Gordon Campbell   Gordon Campbell on Andrew Little’s debut, Mockingjay, and drunk texting by Gordon ... more

Gordon Campbell: govt arrogance, Ferguson & Police pursuits

27 Nov 2014 Opinion By Gordon Campbell
As anyone who’s ever encountered him around Parliament will verify, Chris Finlayson’s arrogance is matched only by his... more

Kiwi Success

UK Police return soldier's lost medals to family in New Zealand

28 Nov 2014 People
Police in Southport have reunited war medals belonging to a local soldier with his surviving family 12,000 miles away in New Zealand.... more

Scientist wins major American geological award

28 Nov 2014 People
University of Canterbury’s Associate Professor Mark Quigley is the first scientist outside North America to win the Geological... more

Recruitment

Lincoln IT day installs interest in pupils

28 Nov 2014 Recruitment
The robots might not match the Terminator but it was hoped the students controlling them might one day use the catchphrase... more

Joyce to attend Sydney job fair

28 Nov 2014 Recruitment
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce will travel to Sydney on Sunday morning to attend the New Zealand job fair. The Sydney... more